Racers strap on snowshoes for the last Yeti of the season 

A snowshoe race called the Yeti might at first appear to be as intimidating as the creature it’s named after.

But founder Marc Cooney said there’s nothing fearsome about this race.

Basically, if you can hike, you can race in the Yeti.

For the second year in a row the Yeti is coming back to Whistler, on Sunday, April 4.

Snowshoe racers or walkers can choose to compete in a 10 km race or a 5 km race.

"The whole thing with this is that anyone can do it," said Cooney.

"That’s why there’s two elements to it."

Cooney admits the 10 km race can be challenging.

"The 10 km is more for the people who want to run," he said, adding that many people are using snowshoes as a great way to cross train in the winter.

"Those are higher level athletes."

But the 5 km run is for just about anyone.

"That’s the biggest thing I’m trying to overcome is the fact that I have an event that people perceive as a race, which there is a race element to it, but I want to get across that this is for anybody.

"If you can hike, you can snowshoe."

Cooney first dreamt up the idea of a snowshoe race series in 2001. At first only three mountains hosted the events. That number has since doubled, with Silver Star and Mount Washington coming on board this year.

In venues like Sun Peaks, Yeti participants doubled from 30 to more than 70 this year, and he’s hoping the same will be true for Whistler, where 56 people competed last year.

"I’m extremely happy," he said.

"Last year we had no snow. This year is quite a bit different."

The race in Whistler begins at the GLC and head ups the Easy Does It mountain bike trail. Competitors will ultimately come down A-Line to the finish line.

The 5 km race should take no longer than one hour even for hikers, whereas the 10 km race should take racers between 45 minutes and two hours.

Snowshoeing as a recreational activity has taken off in recent years, with more and more people rediscovering the benefits of this winter pastime.

"This is something that is non-intimidating," said Cooney.

"It’s very, very inexpensive. And I think that’s why there’s such a rise because more and more people are finding ‘hey, I can do this. I can go take advantage of a winter activity now because there’s something out there for me to do’."

Recently, Cooney has dedicated his time to working on the first governing body of snowshoeing, called the Canadian Athletic Snowshoeing Association. His goal is to get snowshoe running as an Olympic demonstration sport for the 2010 Olympics and right now he’s targeting the youth in B.C. high schools.

"We’re trying to sanction snowshoe racing," he said.

"We want to make this a national thing."

As such, he’s trying to work with the United States Snowshoe Association and the European Snowshoe Council so that each group is working under the same rules, regulations, course design and point structure so that they can all compete together.

Even though it’s gaining in popularity, Cooney said they get can get odd looks when they strap on their snowshoes.

"(Some people) still think that snowshoes are four feet long, two feet wide and made of wood and catgut," he said.

"It’s not the case at all. They’ve been modified for over 10 years."

This is the last Yeti race of the season. Race begins at 10 a.m. on Sunday.

Be there early (around 8 a.m.) if you plan to register on race day and if you’re planning to rent snowshoes. Or log on to www.theyeti.ca prior to the race. The race costs $55 or $45 with pre-registration.

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